Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 31st: It's not just Halloween!

This Friday, there are three special days in one and we'll celebrate them all on Vivace.

Of course, it's Halloween, and we'll enjoy the Symphonie Fantastique in the first hour.  After that, we'll focus on the other two special days: All Saints' Eve and Reformation Day.

At about 7:15 am, we'll hear the beautiful Requiem Mass by Gabriel Faure, as we prepare to remember those who have gone before us.

And after 8 o'clock, we have two special works for Reformation Day.  First, we'll hear the Bach Cantata, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80, based on the original hymn by Martin Luther, and we'll end with The Reformation Symphony by Mendelssohn.

I hope it will be a spectacular morning of music, something a little different for October 31st - just what you've come to expect from WTJU!  As ever I look forward to the pleasure of your company for Vivace, right here on WTJU-Charlottesville.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Paul Hindemith: Nobilissima Visione

Paul Hindemith: Nobilissima Visione
Seattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, conductor

The 1936 ballet "Nobilissima Visione" is the story of St. Francis. Hindemith crafted the music from folk songs, and combined them with the same rich spiritual language he used for his opera "Mathus der Maler" (completed just a year before). "Nobilissima Visione" paints each scene in vivid orchestral colors, and Hindemith effectively conjures up a quasi-medieval world with a distinctively modern orchestra.

Also included is the instructional work "Five Pieces for String Orchestra, Op. 44, No. 4" Hindemith wrote it for beginning and intermediate string players, but one would never know it just by listening to the work. While keeping the technical demands simple, Hindemith creates a varied collection of movements of truly substantial music.

The Seattle Symphony is in fine form on this album. Directed by Gerard Schwarz, the orchestra seems to relish the finely-wrought textures of the scores, sometimes seeming to linger over especially luscious passages. The ensemble is tight throughout both works, and the string sound is gorgeously expansive, especially in the "Five Pieces." If you like Hindemith's "Mathus der Maler" symphony, or "The Four Temperaments," you'll find much to enjoy in this release.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your Friday Breakfast Buffet: Enchanting Music!

Nino Rota and Christoph Weyse
We have a superb buffet of Friday morning music for you on this week's Vivace.

We begin with music of Italian composer Nino Rota, his Symphony of Love Songs, followed by the delightful Morning Songs by Danish composer Christoph Weyse. 
At 7 am, we'll hear one of those splendid rondos by Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, as well as an enchanting harp sonata by Krumpholz and a symphony by Jan Zach. 

Later in the hour, we'll have another tranquil tunes sequence, and a celebration of two anniversaries from the world of operetta.

Emmerich Kalman: one of our birthday celebrants
At 8 o'clock, we'll make a short visit to the world of opera and we'll end with music of Mozart and Ernst von Gemmingen Hornberg.  Who was he?  Well, tune in and you'll find out!

As ever, I hope you'll join me for Vivace, this Friday, 6-9 am, right here on WTJU-Charlottesville.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Norgard Symphonies Nordic Masterworks

Pers Norgard: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Sakari Oramo, conductor
Dacapo SACD

Sakari Oramo has paired Pers Nørgard's first symphony (1953) and his most recent symphony (2011) together, creating an interesting study in contrasts. To my ears, there's a certain Nordic quality to both works. Although the 8th is more dissonant and not as tonal in structure, neither work falls neatly into the post-romantic or atonal categories. Like Sibelius, Norgard has charted his own path and created his own musical language that draws somewhat from both camps.

Nørgard greatly admired Sibelius. He corresponded with the older composer, shared some scores with him, and dedicated his first quintet to Sibelius (with permission). The Symphony No. 1 suggests that Nørgard is indeed one of the heirs of Sibelius' ascetic.

The work has an icy coolness to it, mostly due to Nørgard's orchestration. His string writing, particularly, seems to favor the treble, giving it somewhat of an edge. The subtitle, "Sinfonia Austera," puts the listener on notice, and Nørgard indeed delivers an austere work that nonetheless is quite moving in parts (particularly the slow movement).

Nørgard's 8th Symphony is the work of a mature composer thoroughly in command of his materials. Like the first, it doesn't necessarily fit into the current compositional schools. Instead, Norgard constructs his own sonic world that sounds contemporary without being trendy. The glittering chromaticism and unusual instrumentation make it a work both in and out of its time. If you purchase the SACD of this release, be sure to play it through an SACD player -- the greater detail I heard made a significant difference in the impact this symphony had on me.

Pers Nørgard is well-regarded throughout Scandinavia. Perhaps this recording will help spread his reputation even further.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Morning of Marvelous Musical Treats!

This Friday on Vivace, we have some special musical treats for you. 

We start gently at 6 am with a Sonata for Flute and Piano by Danish composer Friedrich Kuhlau and, for viola fans, a viola concerto by Carl Stamitz. We will also salute British composer Herbert Howells on his 122nd birthday - appropriately with his arrangement of Psalm 122.

Herbert Howells and Domenico Zipoli

At 7, we find Franz Schubert in lively mood as we listen to his Five German Dances, and we'll also have a short work by Domenico Zipoli, whose 326th birthday will be on Friday.

      Felix Mendelssohn at 22

On October 17, 1831, the 22 year-old Felix Mendelssohn gave the first performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in G, Op. 25 in In Munich. To commemorate the occasion we'll hear it at about 7:30 am, in a sparkling performance by Sir Andras Schiff, who returned to the same hall in Munich to perform it with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. 

The real star of this week's show may well turn out to be the Cello Concerto No.6 by Jean Balthasar Tricklir, which we'll hear just after 8 am. We're anticipating a good audience reaction, so here's a photo of the CD cover, just in case you want to buy it.

We'll round out the show with music of Hummel and Mozart. As ever, I hope you'll join me for Vivace, 6-9 am Friday, right here on WTJU-Charlottesville.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Tudors at Prayer

The Tudors at Prayer
Byrd, Tallis, White, Munday, Tavener
Magnificat; Philip Cave, director

Though the theme is somewhat narrowly defined, (English sacred music 1560-1590), there's a surprising amount of variety in this program. Henry VII created the Anglican church, though it had very little change on the sacred music John Tavener and Thomas Tallis composed.

His daughter, Mary I, reinstated the Catholic church, and the music of her time by William Munday and Robert White, reflect that return to tradition. Elizabeth I, like her father an ardent music-lover, brought back the Anglican church, and the sacred music of her time seems more cosmopolitan, somehow. The sacred works of William Byrd don't follow quite follow tradition as closely.

Magnificat performs all these works with appropriate interpretation, making it easier to hear the subtle differences between works written for monarchs with conflicting agendas.The sound is spacious, as befitting the chapels and cathedrals for which these works were written, with just enough ambiance to make the ensemble sound full, without obscuring the contrapuntal lines within.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Vivacious music and an interview with Jon Nakamatsu!

This Friday, on Vivace, we'll feature a new recording of Alessandro Rolla's Basset Horn Concerto, a work I played back in April.  This is a great recording and I know you'll enjoy it.

We celebrate the birthdays of pianist Evgeny Kissin and of composer Giuseppe Verdi.

Also, there's plenty of music for Mozart lovers!

At 8 o'clock, we have a short interview with pianist Jon Nakamatsu, who will be appearing in Charlottesville next Tuesday, as part of the Tuesday Evening Concert Series.

As ever, I hope you'll join me for Vivace, this Friday 6-9 am, here on WTJU-Charlottesville.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lassus Musical Biography Maintains High Standards with Volume 3

Roland de Lassus: Musical Biography, Vol. 3
Egidus Quartet and College
Peter de Groot, director

You'll come for the music, but stay for the biography. The third volume of WEM's excellent series couples first-rate performances of Lassus' music with an in-depth biography that places that music in context.

This volume focuses on the year 1583, when Lassus' relationship with his sponsor,  Albrecht V Duke of Bavaria, was starting to unravel. The music from this time is mostly sacred, featuring the Missa O passi sparsi, along with several motets and the Magnificat supra Las je n'iray.

The Egidius Quartet wisely inserts several "sine textu" instrumental works throughout the program. It provides some tonal variety, and makes the disc enjoyable to listen to straight through. The Egidua Quartet and College perform with pure singing tones that give the selections a luminous transparency.

The release comes with a 62 page hard-bound CD book with color illustrations. It's as much a joy to read as the music is to listen to. Granted, this release will most likely appeal to only hardcore early music lovers. But if you're one of them, this -- and the rest of the series -- is worth the investment.